Gerald DeCock: Magic and Muses

April 21, 2011
“I believe in magic.”

Gerald DeCock travels between creative worlds: hairstylist, painter, and now collaborator on two photography projects. A hairstylist by trade, his effortless-looking work appears regularly in photographs by Bruce Weber and Dewey Nicks, and he maintains a regular clientele of fashion, music, and art world insiders. A painter as well, his use of his apartment as a canvas is almost as well known as he is.

But for the past few years, Gerald has been quietly collaborating on two series of photographs: Magic Hour, with photographer Sam Bassett, and Pull Me Gently by my Tresses, with artist/writer/performance artist Dominic Vine. These two projects utilize much of the process of fashion photography, but the motives behind them create something entirely different.

In Magic Hour, Gerald cast his clients and friends in a series of quick photo sessions with Hotel Chelsea neighbor Sam Bassett, all held at sunset: “Magic hour was about spontaneity – what could happen in this really short time.” he says, “Sometimes fashion is so over-analyzed and planned – this is the polar opposite of that.” The resulting photographs are both haunting and refreshingly homemade. “We never knew what we would get. Usually there are so many styling choices and such a large crew. What would happen if we just wrap someone in a scarf and send’em out? But I believe there’s no such thing as coincidence. And I love things that feel timeless.”

The photographs in Magic Hour show a more primal, sometimes darker side of the subjects than a traditional portrait. And the title is about more than a photographer’s favorite light. Gerald explains: “Magic is all around you – whether you choose to pay attention to it or not is a choice. I feel like what we get during Magic Hour is a fleeting vision of the person’s past life.” The series also allowed him to use his friends as muses: “I get really inspired by a person – I love casting. I’m fascinated by seeing something extra in a person.”

The other series, Pull Me Gently by my Tresses, is even more muse-oriented: Dominic Vine is the sole model in a series of infrared photographs jointly produced by the duo. “This was at first an experiment in hair texture – how could I make the hair into different textures without making it a ‘hairstyle’? And Dominic had this very masculine and yogic vibe. I looked at Dominic and said: You’re this subway-surfing sadhu!” Gerald also colorized and etched into the photos, bringing his painting into the project: “In many ways I’m inspired by Maxfield Parrish – that dreaminess.”

But it is the hair, and Dominic’s charisma, that guided the project. “You see that there is a different texture, but it still looks like it’s natural. I love historical looks – not in a literal way, but I’m inspired by them. I’m also inspired by the ancient and medieval. Let’s face it, I’m a romantic. Men in the Renaissance were really feminine – they wore tights! – but they still looked very masculine. And on Dominic even the most feminine looks are masculine – I love that.”

Photographs by Gerald DeCock, Sam Bassett and Dominic Vine.

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